Veterans at Macedonia senior living facility honored

April Helms
Kent Weeklies
Bob Watson shows a display of his memorabilia from his service in the Army. Watson and Joe Twardzik at Summit Point senior living community in Macedonia were honored with inscribed bricks at the Nordonia Hills Veteran Memorial Park.

MACEDONIA -- The veterans at Summit Point senior living community in Macedonia were honored with inscribed bricks at the Nordonia Hills Veteran Memorial Park, thanks to a donation made by the foundation for the park.

Additionally, the veterans were honored with a special luncheon, pinning and certificate on Veterans Day.

Toni Deininger, the life enrichment director, said that the foundation had met at the facility until the COVID-19 pandemic, “but we have kept a good relationship with them.”

Two of the veterans that were honored are WWII vets, Joe Twardzik and Bob Watson, said Caty Carrico, who handles marketing at Summit Point. Both were drafted at the age of 18. 

Joe Twardzik and Bob Watson were honored at Summit Point senior living community in Macedonia with a special luncheon, pinning and certificate on Veterans Day.

Watson, now 93, served in the Army from 1944 to 1946, Carrico said. After training at Camp Wheeler in Macon, Ga. to become a rifle man, he was flown to California and shipped to the Philippines, embarking after 17 days at sea in Manila. Close to the end of this voyage the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan.  Watson’s unit stayed to set up a "rest camp" for soldiers who had fought in Guam or close to Japan.  Watson then reenlisted for one year after spending Christmas at home.  He was stationed in Germany in the town of Weinstein across the river from Heidelberg.  There, his troop set up a constabulary, a type of police station for occupied Germany.  He remembers zipping along the Autobahn in a jeep and going into bars to make sure there was no alcohol abuse. Years later Watson took his wife Jean to Europe to visit the area where he had been stationed.

Twardzik, who is now 95, said he grew up in the southeast part of Cleveland. He served in the Army from 1843 to 1945. He went to the Mohave Desert in California for six months training to become a machine gunner for low flying planes. His first assignment was in Bombay, India, now Mumbai. 

It took 32 days for Twardzik and those assigned along with him to reach Bombay. They had to take indirect routes, “zig-zagging because of the U-boats,” Twardzik said.

“Spent a few months practicing shooting at planes and other things the army required from you,” Twardzik said. “I grew up in three years very fast. I appreciate a lot of people and a lot of things in life.”

While there, during a break, he took the train to Calcutta where he visited the church that Mother Teresa attended, Carrico said. He carries a picture of that church in his wallet. He was then sent to Burma, now Myanmar, where he spent 1½ years preparing to ship to Japan.  Then in 1945 then-president Franklin Delano Roosevelt died and President Harry S Truman ordered the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Twardzik’s unit was sent home, traveling 26 days by ship to Seattle.  He remembers once flying in a bomber airplane with benches along the insides and no doors.  He and a buddy stood up and looked out the open door when suddenly the plane hit an air pocket.

Twardzik said he and his wife Dorothy, who died two years ago, raised their four children in Garfield Heights.

“We went to school together, from first grade to eighth grade,” Twardzik said. “We went to a Catholic school, and we lived close together, one street apart. Best girl I ever met.”

Twardzik said that he worked for Sohio, driving a double tanker.

The family loved to travel, he added.

“Every year we’d save money to go to different places. I had a trailer that I won money for my bowling in Cleveland, they paid me $1,750 for having most pins over average. The Cleveland Press had sponsored it.”

Twardzik said that “every place was a pleasure” but one place he remembered fondly was renting a place by the ocean in New Jersey “when the kids were small.”

“They had a good time,” he said.

As well as his four adult children, Twardzik said he has several grandchildren. One granddaughter, he added, plays Tinkerbelle at Walt Disney World.

Twardzik said he “was always a sports fan,” so as well as bowling, he liked playing baseball, softball and other sports. He said he also likes square dancing.

“I can’t sit like an old man,” Twardzik said.

For details on the Nordonia HIlls Veterans Memorial Park, visit nhvmp.com online.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at ahelms@thebeaconjournal.com